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I. The Valongo

  before we can see it the smell of the valongo stings our nostrils in greeting   we leave the docks in a chain passing along the low banks   heavy wetness of sand     our legs are not strong       our stomachs will not hold food but we have not yet stopped thinking about home though it is a hazard   the carioca winter     is wet red caps for our     horrid curls   striped cotton panel for sex (concession to travelers   taking umbrage at the nakedness of slaves along public roads) death stench   of grey bodies half-covered with dirt   and the shoveled excrement of warehouses at the pier we were not crying but now there are  so many of us

II. The Homesickness Disease

in the night visions of our own countries o banzo  the fatal nostalgia will come for us will rap on our doors on the floors of the hallways where we sleep we will see it even in daylight     shine back at us   from fetters and bells     on the necks of those recaptured in the absent places of the drumming     second sound   overbeat     where the hidden mouth is talking it will come for us weaving a crooked string tear our hearts into fine shreds for some of us this will be soon and we will scratch the life out of our throats with stones and silty earth we are not patient with this unfreedom nor accustomed to its byzantine diminishments but some of us must wait those who do not trust the forests or who bide time or who loosen their veins into the quagmires of an invented life or vanish into the spun rage of masters o banzo defers sleeps inside marrow holds breath will come when we are older and our knees have become bony and wide ”they die of it this longing for their country young ones who will not eat old ones of crippled stature sit by the waters of an afternoon humming their prayers into the ocean”

III. Os Prêtos Velhos: Os Bisnetos

night water   watch of sand broken stars and the low humming of prayers it is we this time at the ocean edge though whatever sight we claim is gift is incomplete by grace emsp;   of whose purging the   fathomless horrors     purposive forgetting has gifted our genetic memory       abridgement for succor on the sand   lateral stretch of beach our unseeing eyes   ;stroke holes into the horizon though what we search for is not found there some things are kept from us grief of salt   swollen lamentation shunted overboard     the numberless

Rachel E. Harding

Rachel E. Harding, a native of Atlanta, is a Latin American historian, writer and arts consultant living in Denver, Colorado. Her work has appeared previously in Callaloo as well as in other literary magazines and in anthologies.


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pp. 205-207
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